It is a paradox of life that while we want to be happy and free from worries and pain and sadness, we almost always prefer to carry the huge burdens that life places on our shoulders rather than shrug them off and be merry. Why are so many people trapped in the past in their minds? Why do we hold on to resentments or old hurts, allowing them to hold us back or take up so much space in our minds and our hearts?
There is a human tendency to carry much in our minds that is past and unnecessary to hold on to. Thoughts of past and future are no more solid than a dream, and yet just like when we are asleep and caught up in our dreams, we believe in these thoughts as though they are truths. Many people feel they went through an unhappy childhood, and that may be the case for you—but if so, that is now finished.
As a child, when your present was not pleasant you projected your mind into a brighter future. As an adult, through meditation and mindfulness, you can train your mind to stop jumping backwards and forwards and instead learn to sit and breathe—and in exchange an internal, present happiness starts to grow. As an older person, an educated adult, now on your own path, you have to try to investigate and ask the question, ‘where is the real happiness?’ The real happiness comes from when you calm down.
When we begin to contemplate the impermanence of life, we are then truly open and willing to see as we have never seen before. We rejoice in the detail and as a result of this kind of thinking, our selfishness and arrogance go down because we kneel in front of the truth that anything can happen in the next minute.
When we are present in our lives, we experience a new type of freedom. Our worries about what might go wrong dissolve as we are taken up with the moment, with being fully attentive in the here and now. This is why it is so important to develop our awareness, our mindfulness, so that we may appreciate today rather than only think of the possibilities of tomorrow or how we would change things if we could turn back the clock.
If you are unable to let go of resentments, they may turn into harder grievances, like a knot that constantly sits in your stomach or in the corner of your heart. They will be like an incurable cancer.
It’s up to you whether you let this continue for the whole of your life or choose to turn it around. So this is your chance, right now, to forget it. Let that chapter be over and start a new page, write your own story. This is your life.
Every morning when you wake up is your opportunity to make a fresh start. You are free to be happy, if you want to be. Now is the time to do it. Don’t wait. It is very important to realise your happiness is always there, within you. It is your essence, and whatever comes and goes in your life, you can take strength from within yourself, and you can trust yourself. These are the things that I believe you sense when you allow yourself to really listen to what your heart is telling you. And this is why we have tools—such as meditation—to help us listen a little better.
You might only catch an occasional glimpse of deep happiness because of all the layers that have built up through the course of your life. And some of those layers won’t dissolve in an instant, but if you are willing to try and look beyond them, that is a great start. This is why we encourage reflection and contemplation; why we take the time to stoke the fires of our aspirations and motivation. Some people may call it your inner glow, the peace within yourself, but whatever form it takes for you the first step towards happiness begins with awareness and attention.
Unburden Your Mind
There is a Buddhist story about a monk who is travelling with his companion. They come to a road that is almost impassable because of a mudslide and a woman is on the side of the road, unable to go any further. The monk offers to carry her across the road, so that she can continue her journey, for which she is greatly appreciative. But later on, the companion looks very perturbed, so the monk asks what is bothering him. The companion is very upset because the monk’s status means that he should not be carrying a woman across the road like that—it really wasn’t an appropriate thing to do. The monk smiles at his companion and tells him, ‘Friend, I put down the woman a long time ago; why are you still carrying her?’
The author is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas